ARE YOU looking for a challenge or some meaning to put into your retirement?
Why not consider the act of volunteering? Volunteerism is a great opportunity to get involved with your local community.
Eugene Gill is a prime example of how, in addition to helping your community, volunteering can be self-fulfilling.
A 1964 graduate of Union Local high school, “Gillie” moved to Barnesville in 1991 and enrolled his three daughters into the long-time rival Shamrock public school system.
Two of his daughters became cheerleaders and once again, Gillie found himself on the sidelines of a football field.
Not the type to stand around, it was not long before Gillie was helping - working as a volunteer with the chain gang on the sidelines of the football field.
Because he was a football player for the Union Local Jets in high school, his former teammates were shocked to see him on the opposing sidelines for the annual rivalry game between the two schools.
“I was the last person they expected to go to Barnesville,” said Gill. “The rivalry wasn’t always friendly and in my younger days, well let’s just say I might not have had much nice to say about the Shamrocks back then.”
Gillie weathered the storm of criticism from the Jets’ alumni, taking it all in stride.
His outgoing personality brought him to the attention of then head football coach for the Shamrocks, Al Treherne, who noticed how well he interacted with the players and asked if Gill wanted to help with the team.
Gillie stepped into the role of equipment manager.
While some teams in the area have enough in their budgets to pay a person to fill this position, at Barnesville it is a volunteer post.
At the time, Gill was still employed with Alltel and with the blessing and support of his wife Tina, he agreed.
The equipment manager has two big areas of responsibility: equipment and logistics.
From the helmets and shoulder pads to the Gatorade mix in the water jug, there is much to do. Working from the first week of July through November, and off an on in between on call.
Primarily, an equipment manager’s job is to fit each player on the team with a customized array of equipment that will provide maximum protection against injury. So it’s a lot about keeping helmets in good condition and putting pads together properly.
The equipment manager must handle the tons of equipment the team uses on a daily basis, keep all of it repaired, clean and in stock, in addition to making sure it all gets moved around for the away games.
Gillie stated hat he has had to wash more than 100 towels from a single game and recently had to wash all 46 helmets.
When Gillie started, those were his duties and “Doc” Edwards taped the players and took care of the injuries.
When coach Treherne retired, so did Doc and Gillie took over that job, too.
“Doc showed me the ropes,” said Gill, and when current head Coach Luke Johnson agreed to take over that role in addition to his equipment duties.
Having retired from Alltel in 1999, he decided to obtain his certification in First Aid, Sports Medicine and CPR, then the required background check, all out of his own pocket.
“It’s not about the money,” said Gill, “What I have here with the athletes is irreplaceable; they are all like sons to me.”
Following last football season, Gillie had to undergo surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm, and it was uncertain if he would be physically able to return this fall.
“I went to the first two practices and it made up my mind,” said Gill, “The surgery definitely took something out of me, but even though I didn’t feel like going sometimes, I really enjoy it and would miss it. It keeps me going.”
The job has provided Gillie with many memories over the years.
“There have been two perfect seasons and four or five playoff games,” said Gill, “I really can’t pick one memory, they are all special.”
The Barnesville and Union Local rivalry game is always a season highlight and recently Gill collaborated with his counterpart “Tug” Robson to commemorate the event.
The pair approached their boards of education for the two schools and gained approval for the Milk Bucket award to be presented to the winner when two football teams meet.
“I really can’t take much credit for it,” said Gill, “Tug called me and asked me about it and I thought it would be a great thing for both schools.” The two have known each other since going to school together at Union Local and played softball together.
“The trophy represents the rivalry since it began with plaques with all of the scores over the past 51 seasons,” he added,
“It has spots on it for the next 50 years so it will be around for a while.”
Now 64 years old, Gillie also enjoys fishing in bass tournaments.
“That’s where you will find me most Saturdays and Sundays,’’ he said.
With no signs of slowing down, Gillie plans to keep participating in both his loves for many years.
“I have six grandchildren, three in Barnesville and three in Union Local. It could get interesting.”
Palmer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EUGENE?GILL, right, and “Tug” Robson, the respective equipment managers at Barnesville and Union Local High Schools, flank the Milk Bucket trophy that goes to the winner of the Week 10 rivalry game each season pitting the Jets against the Shamrocks.